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The Permanent Caravaners

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After two years on the road as permanent caravaners, Lynn and Ken Finlay had been asked by so many people (including non-campers) how they were coping with life on the road that they decided to write an article about their experiences.

Story and photos by Lynn and Ken Finlay

Welcome to 2014 and to all the new full-timers starting the adventure of a lifetime. It is now 18 months since we packed up and hit the road and we can only say to those waiting in the wings… take the plunge!

Over the past two years we have even had people who don’t camp (other than for holidays) ask how they can get into it. It is strange, but of the people we have spoken to, many are very keen to try it out but it is the wife who is reluctant. The kids and grandchildren are the main reason for this reluctance, although also there is a fear of leaving ‘home’. The men would generally pack up in a heartbeat so it is the nesting thing that women have to get over. Anyhow, I am sure that we have a lot more converts on the way!

Our own trip started in August 2012 at the fabulous Richards Bay Caravan Park where we stayed for two months, escaping the cold of Gauteng. There we found a group of about 70 couples who are also doing the full-time thing, and what an education that turned out to be.

We were welcomed into the ‘family’ with open arms and, after two months of fantastic camping, wining and dining, we left to move on to MacNicols at Bazley Beach, where we spent a friendly but wet month. From there we spent a month at Spioenkop Dam in the Battlefields area, but this was not a good idea as the wind howled and we spent most of our time alone. The campsite has also deteriorated and, while we love Spioenkop, it is expensive and badly run.

Back to Joburg for Xmas and out again as soon as we could, content in the knowledge that we had made the right decision to leave in the first place. Then on to Gariep Dam resort at Oviston for two weeks… and it was there that we appreciated the money we had spent on buying a cargo net to hold down the tent as well as the silver reflective sheet on our tent. This had been purchased to replace our storm straps which discovered tended to chafe the tent in strong winds. We had just replaced the roof of our tent because of mildew and we added two panels to make an L shaped living area to allow us more space.

The silver and the cargo net are ‘must haves’ and are worth every cent we spent on them.

The real test for us came at Langebaan. We stayed at Leentjiesklip during February and, while this is a really beautiful part of the country, if we had not already paid for the month then we would have left just one week into the month.

Forget the large pegs we all use; they are no better than clothes pegs in that wind which blows at 60 km/h every day, with gusts rising up to 80 km! We had to travel into Bellville to buy some GIANT pegs to hold everything down and, in spite of all these monsters, we were still fixing down the tent every morning.

Weekend visitors to the camp obviously buy a new tent for each visit as the tents get shredded within the first day.

Then it was on to Cape Town to visit the family and a two-week stay at Zandvlei in Muizenburg… which I will not linger on as it was not the most pleasant experience.

While in Cape Town we looked at all of the campsites within an hour’s drive from the city and, while we were looking for campsites near rivers or dams for kayaking on, we found nothing that was suitable. With the fantastic scenery and roads you would think that the Cape would rival Natal for camping, but this is not so. Most of the campsites are municipal and are very scruffy and run down. The private parks are very expensive and do not offer monthly or pensioner rates. In fact, we found them to be rather unfriendly.

This may well be because of the relatively short season which falls over peak holiday times, but it is nonetheless a pity.

We left Cape Town for the Wilderness where we spent a month at Island Lake Caravan Park. This is a gem in the Garden Route list of very lovely campsites. Small, compact, well-run and extremely popular, we enjoyed the hospitality of Johan and Hester and made many new friends. The kayaking in the area is the best in the country with lakes, rivers and a friendly sea to choose from. The people are friendly and helpful and if ever we have to stop our travels, this is where it would happen.

We spent Easter at the ever popular Forever Resort Plettenberg Bay, where they give new meaning to the word ‘organised’! Packed as it was, there was never a dirty ablution, broken tap or plug point, and never a mess around the campsites. The staff members are friendly and helpful and the month spent there was a treat. We left for Natal to escape the early rainfall in the Cape, and we were very sad to go. We spent a night at Nature’s Rest, outside of East London, which is a very pretty campsite.

We then moved on to Natal, travelling through the Transkei as we had intended staying over at Cremorne at Port St Johns but, as they had been flooded out, we had to divert to Kokstad, where we spent two days at Mt. Currie Nature Reserve.

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